The meeting between Congressional Democrats and the White House earlier this week on the potential for a $2 trillion infrastructure deal reignited bipartisan arguments over just how to pay for an infrastructure measure – further calling into question the viability of anything moving forward in the near term.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Cali.) and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) on April 30 met with President Trump during which they agreed to work together on a $2 trillion infrastructure package. The key question of funding reportedly wasn’t discussed, however.
Although lawmakers on both sides are generally in favor of an infrastructure bill, the meeting renewed longstanding disagreements over how to pay for it and resulted in a flood of media coverage in which lawmakers debated various funding options.
Of importance to NATSO members, the President said that he doesn't support public-private partnerships and indicated that he wants the majority of the $2 trillion to be direct public investment. Sen. Schumer has said that the ball is in the President's court to determine how to pay for infrastructure.
NATSO supports long-term sustainable infrastructure investments such as increasing the motor fuels taxes and opposes such funding schemes as tolling and commercial rest areas that harm off-highway businesses and communities.
House Democrats plan to push for a motor fuels tax increase. The House T&I Committee held a May 1 Members’ Day Hearing for all Members of the House of Representatives to highlight the issues of importance as the Committee moves forward with its legislative agenda.
During that meeting, Congressman Tom O’Halleran (D-Ariz.) expressed support for commercializing rest areas, which NATSO strongly opposes. Since taking over as Chairman of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, Peter DeFazio repeatedly has called for an infrastructure plan funded by real dollars and has referred to privatization as “pretend stuff.”
A Senate Democratic plan from 2018 calls for funding infrastructure by rolling back parts of the 2017 GOP tax overhaul – which is viewed by many as a non-starter. In an interview with the Washington Post, House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy said he’s not willing to adjust tax law to raise money for an infrastructure package. [Watch the interview here.] Majority Leader McCarthy also said that a gas tax increase doesn't go far enough and that he wants to leverage public-private partnerships.
Sen. Shelley Moore Capito (R-W.V.), who serves on three committees involved with drafting an infrastructure bill, said two trillion is a high number and that she doesn’t think a commitment to a gas tax increase alone would be enough.
"Two trillion is a pretty high number. I think we'd have to look at what the pay-fors are and what the whole package looks like. I don't think that a commitment to a gas tax, singularly, would fly," Sen. Capito said.
Sen. John Thune said he "can't believe" an infrastructure package could pass if it's not paid for and that a 35-cent increase in the gas tax indexed for inflation would only generate a half a trillion dollars.
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